Five City Council Hopefuls Vie to Take Charge of Buena Park

JESSICA RUIZ, Voice of OC

Buena Park City Hall.

Two seats are up for grabs in one of Orange County’s northernmost cities — Buena Park — and three members of the community are hoping to win them. 

This is another Orange County town with a tourism-oriented cadre of attractions like Knott’s Berry Farm and the Source Mall. The city also neighbors Anaheim, with its (pre COVID-19) bustling Disneyland resort area. It’s also well positioned in the southland, a gateway between Orange and Los Angeles counties. 

Buena Park’s strong Korean American community for the first time saw one of its own, Sunny Park, get elected to the council in 2018. 

In the race for the city’s District 3 council seat are: 

  • Sharon Smith, wife of current mayor and longtime Councilman Fred Smith. 
  • Susan Sonne, a local nonprofit director and city commissioner.
  • Paul Gonzalez, a businessman and staffer at the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, who also served on the city’s planning and traffic commissions. 

Smith is campaigning on a platform of conservative fiscal leadership, looking to the city’s economic growth and development of local businesses and tourist attractions as a foundation of the sales tax that brings money into city coffers. 

She’s also campaigning on investing in parks for children and programs for seniors, as well as “public safety” support in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and calls to reallocate resources away from police into other areas — which she rejects, according to her website. 

“I am committed to economic development, increasing our property values and enhancing our quality of life. I will always make public safety a priority, while limiting taxes/spending and supporting our children and seniors,” her candidate statement reads.

Sonne, a more liberal candidate whose idea of public safety, according to her website, means supporting police but also investing in other areas to create economic mobility and “decriminalize poverty.”

She too is advocating for more senior support in the city through more investment in making areas like parks and sidewalks more accessible, as well as meal delivery programs. 

But her online platform also includes making government more accessible and culturally diverse, paying attention to climate change in a city that sits between major freeways, and “reimagining” the Buena Park Mall in downtown.

Gonzalez doesn’t appear to have a candidate website. 

His candidate statement says little beyond details about his life and family and owning a small business at the Cypress College swap meet. 

In the statement, he briefly lays out his ambition to “fight for the safety and quality of life our families enjoy” and use his experience on the city’s commissions to “ensure our city is safe for all of our citizens and visitors.”

Running for District 4 are:

  • Donna Sipl, who according to her official ballot designation is a “Global Compliance Manager.”
  • Incumbent Councilman Art Brown.

Sipl is campaigning on issues like protecting “public safety and reduce property crimes,” transparency and fiscal responsibility, preserving quality of life, and improving communication between the city and residents. 

“I want to amplify the voices of District 4 residents to ensure inclusiveness in policies that are implemented, and promote a city council that maintains high standards of local government transparency and accountability …” her candidate statement reads. 

Brown is campaigning on his experience, which he said the city needs to get through the pandemic. 

“These difficult economic times along with the COVID-19 pandemic require an experienced candidate with a commitment to the future of our city. I know first-hand the city’s financial strength is of paramount importance to the citizens,” his statement reads. 

It adds: “It’s especially important to make difficult decisions without resorting to increasing taxes and fees on residents while insuring a balanced budget.”